The Technician's Trap
08 Jul 2019 by Dave
I’ve been re-reading “The E-Myth Revisited”, by Michael Gerber. I’m seeing more flaws now than in my previous reading years ago, but it’s still packed with meaningful insights.
You’ll often hear about incubators funding strong technical founders, saying that they have the “hard” skills, and the rest of the business skills can be picked up easily. I think that’s probably largely true. Business skills can be picked up. But whether or not it happens is another matter.
A key insight from the book is what I now like to call The Technician’s Trap. If you’re in a technical career and decide to start a business, you tend to frame everything in terms of the technical work. That is what you’re familiar with. It’s your comfort zone. You can get away with this for a while, but if all goes well your business will grow and you’ll have to hire a team. Then management by abdication starts, and eventually things go wrong and you wonder why you went into business to begin with.
It’s easy to realise, intellectually, that you can’t keep focusing on just technical work if you are to grow a business. The trap is that it’s even easier to throw yourself back into technical work when your efforts at management are not going as well as you’d hoped, instead of learning how to be a proper manager (and entrepreneur). The book has some useful practical advice on this, but it’s also somewhat more philosophical in convincing you that the experience will be worth it in terms of personal growth.
According to the book, we all have 3 personalities inside us: The Technician, The Manager and The Entrepreneur. The goal is to become less lopsided towards The Technician, creating space for The Entrepreneur and The Manager to grow.
The Entrepreneur brings vision to the business, focusing on how it will work years down the line, not getting stuck in The Technician’s need to solve day-to-day problems. The Entrepreneur always focuses on building a business for the customer, unlike The Technician, who simply wants somewhere to go to work.
The Manager is pragmatic, bringing order to the business. The manager ensures that things happen on time, in a measurable way, turning chaos into process.
“The E-Myth Revisited” is a great book. At times, the examples are a bit hard for me to relate to, since they’re mainly about B2C businesses. Also, some things are made to seem much easier than they are in practice, and solutions are framed as being the one true way, instead of one way amongst many. Despite these minor criticisms, Michael Gerber is a master storyteller, which makes this book much more inspiring than other dry business books. And that is what you’re going to need if you’re to build a successful business and overcome The Technician’s Trap: more than a little bit of inspiration.
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